KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaican prosecutors announced Tuesday that a veteran Jamaican policeman will be charged with murdering a heavily pregnant woman as he was trying to arrest her for cursing in the middle of a town square.
Horrified eyewitnesses in the coastal town of Yallahs told investigators that Corporal Dwayne Smart shot Kayann Lamont in the head with his Glock service pistol during a scuffle as he tried to arrest her for using "indecent language," a crime in Jamaica.
He then allegedly shot her sister in her upper body, and was apparently aiming at the third sister but his gun ran out of ammunition. Eyewitnesses report that Smart appeared to be reloading his weapon when he was restrained by a fellow officer.
The 25-year-old Lamont was about eight months pregnant and just coming back to the Yallahs area after a shopping trip to downtown Kingston with her two sisters.
The Saturday afternoon slaying of the pregnant woman and the shooting of her sister, Novia, have sent a shock wave through much of the island's society. Dozens of furious Yallahs residents have demonstrated in the town, denouncing police and calling for justice.
Linda Palmer-Hamilton, the island's acting director of public prosecution, ruled Tuesday that Smart will be charged with murder, wounding with intent, assault and firearm violations. She made the quick ruling spurred by widespread outrage.
The Independent Commission of Investigations said Tuesday that Smart was quickly taken into custody on the insistence of Indecom as investigators were concerned that he was a flight risk.
The uninjured sister, Shem Lamont, told Television Jamaica that her elder sister was overheard using a commonly-used Jamaican curse word to a nearby market vendor as she got out of a minibus in Yallahs Square. She said the accused officer immediately tried to arrest the woman and was trying to drag her to a police station when she tried to get out of his grip.
"The man kill off my sister, you know, for nothing at all," Shem Lamont told the TV station, her eyes welling with tears.
Police Supt. Michael Smith said the officer was "remorseful" and always seemed to be a level-headed individual. He said he was known as a religious man who was active in his church.
More than 2,000 fatal shootings by security officers were reported by police over the last decade in this Caribbean country of 2.8 million people, and 211 reported police killings were reported last year. Human rights groups have long complained that a culture of impunity has allowed Jamaican police to serve as judge, jury and executioner.
Police typically say shooting deaths occur as they respond to unprovoked gunfire. Police statistics show that more accused officers have fled the island than have been convicted of abuse since 1999.
Most of the killings occur in rough neighborhoods that are seldom seen by tourists who flock to the scenic island's beach resorts.
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